March 2012 | Commentary | Viewpoint

3PLs: Going Beyond Savings to True Value

Tags: 3PL, Partnership

Dan Lockwood is chief executive officer, Unishippers Global
801-708-5800

Although shipping is an integral and expensive part of daily operations, other considerations often take priority. This may result in unhappy customers, increased shipping costs, and time wasted resolving issues.

Companies looking to increase efficiency and maximize shipping dollars often turn to third-party logistics (3PL) providers, one-stop resources that facilitate shipping and logistics needs. 3PLs integrate time- and money-saving shipping services into one cost-effective bundle.

Using a full-service 3PL to handle your shipping needs can offer the following benefits.

1. A range of choices. When you ship directly through a freight or express carrier, you are limited by its products and pricing, which may or may not fit your timeline and budget requirements. 3PLs typically establish strategic partnerships with a select group of carriers, which enables them to provide many choices without the shipper having to make multiple calls to different carriers.

A carefully vetted portfolio of carrier partners enables 3PLs to provide shippers a wide variety of routes and speed options.

In addition, a 3PL can use its aggregated customer base to negotiate discounts with carriers that small to mid-sized businesses may be unable to obtain on their own.

2. One invoice, few hassles. Processing invoices is sometimes a nightmare. Companies that ship regularly may be inundated with dozens or even hundreds of monthly invoices. Shipping with a 3PL can distill the often complex invoicing process that results from using multiple carriers to one simple, customized invoice that allows shippers to see all shipping expenditures in one place.

3. Stellar service. To truly be an asset to your bottom line, it's not enough for a shipping provider to know your transportation needs—it must also know your business. Often, a 3PL will have an office in or near the city where your business is located. The advantages of dealing with a local customer service representative who knows you and your business' unique needs cannot be overstated. They can quickly resolve claims, lost shipments, delays, and other shipping issues.

4. Time-saving TMS. Sometimes you don't need to talk to a customer service representative to get a quote, arrange a pickup, or follow up on a shipment. For shipping management convenience, many 3PLs offer transportation management systems (TMS), often directly on their Web sites.

TMS solutions give shippers the opportunity to take control of their own shipments any time. Some popular and powerful TMS features include:

  • At-a-glance cost and transit time comparisons.
  • One-step conversion of quotes to bills of lading. Pricing can be automatically updated and recalculated to reflect the latest pricing, fees, and class.
  • A list of frequently shipped items so you can quickly select shipment information.
  • Tracking tools that provide instant shipment status updates.
  • Invoicing visibility and online bill payment.

All the benefits of having a successful relationship with a 3PL can be summarized in one word that appeals to every business: value. Delegating your shipping operations to a 3PL may allow you to leverage its relationships, expertise, and technology, which saves you time and money.